The competent body for the safeguarding of the country’s intangible cultural heritage is the Direction Générale de la Culture et du Patrimoine (DGCP, Directorate General of Culture and Heritage), through its Cultural Heritage Directorate and technical services, including for folk traditions and intangible heritage. This is in line with the organizational chart of the Ministère de la Jeunesse, des Sports, des Arts et de la Culture (MJSAC, Ministry of Youth, Sports, Art and Culture). The technical services may be contacted through the Directorate General of Culture and Heritage at the ministry responsible for culture. A number of legislative and regulatory measures have been implemented: Law No. 06.002 of 10 May 2006, on the Central African Republic Cultural Charter; Decree No.09.383 of 20 November 2009, on the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Central African Republic; Order No. 0007MJSAC/CAB/SG/DGP/DCVP of 1 August 2003 on the Prohibition of the Exploitation and/or Exportation of the Oral Tradition of Cultural Minorities of the Central African Republic for commercial purposes.
Until a few years ago, the Central African Republic lacked an institution specialized in training relating to cultural heritage management, although the Museum Studies Department of the National School of Arts provided entry-level training on the subject. The few specialists and officials from MJSAC received their higher education at institutes and universities abroad. Four years ago, the University of Bangui opened an Anthropology Department with a Cultural Heritage section that focuses more on research than on management. As regards capacity-building activities in matters of safeguarding intangible cultural heritage, each year, within its field of competence, the department for culture organizes a series of capacity-building workshops for Pygmy leaders (custodians of the tradition) and for the cultural stakeholders of these communities.
Except for the Cultural Heritage Directorate and its technical services, the State has not yet established a cultural heritage documentation centre. Nevertheless, documentation concerning the oral traditions of the Aka Pygmies is archived and conserved by the programme coordination team at the Cultural Heritage Directorate within the DGCP. Recent measures include the creation of a Centre de Référence pour la sauvegarde et la revitalisation, des Traditions Orales des Pygmées Aka (Reference Centre for the Safeguarding and Revitalization of the Oral Traditions of the Aka Pygmies); appointment by Ministerial Order of a Director for the Reference Centre; approval of a special grant of 30,000,000 CFA Francs for the rehabilitation of the Reference Centre.
The body responsible for inventorying efforts is the DGCP and its technical services. As a State body, the Department for Culture is represented in the country’s prefectures and sub-prefectures. Accordingly, a mission statement setting out specific guidelines and accompanied by files on relevant intangible cultural heritage elements has been sent to the department’s representatives throughout the country in order to make a pre-inventory. The results of this initial work will enable the Department to organize a multidisciplinary field mission to pursue the study, with the consent of members of the bearer communities involved. Efforts are underway to inventory intangible cultural heritage elements of the country’s ethnic minority groups and secret societies, and the Central African Republic is submitting to UNESCO a request for International Assistance from the Intangible Cultural Heritage Fund for a project to inventory intangible heritage elements of the entire country’s minority communities. In terms of working methods, the team favours participatory processes because practitioners themselves best know and understand the meaning of their heritage. Dialogue between the two parties will contribute to a deeper understanding of the uses practitioners make of their heritage. Intangible cultural heritage elements evolve and biennial comparative studies are foreseen to assess data from previous inventories.
From the viewpoint of educational and training programmes for the Aka Pygmy communities, a literacy training programme is being run in the Reference Centre for the Oral Tradition of the Aka Pygmies by the Centre’s Director for the benefit of the Aka Pygmies. As regards non-formal means of transmitting knowledge, this is achieved through learning and revitalization sessions organized by the Director of the Reference Centre in partnership with the members of the local safeguarding and revitalization committee, who also participate in the various cultural events (festivals, fairs and so forth).
The Central African Republic has one element on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity: Polyphonic singing of the Aka Pygmies of Central Africa (incorporated in 2008 after having been proclaimed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2003). An action plan for safeguarding and revitalizing the element was prepared by the Central African Republic and the Republic of the Congo and implemented between 2005 and 2007 with the financial support of the UNESCO/Japanese Funds-in-Trust and the governments of those countries, and the full involvement of the bearer communities of the Aka Pygmy project and other stakeholders. At the request of the NGO COOPI (Cooperazione Internazionale), working in partnership with DGCP, the Pygmies joined in with the various advocacy activities concerning their special protection. In that context, a series of meetings was held, with the participation of the Pygmies, leading to the ratification of ILO Convention No. 169 by the Government of the Central African Republic. With a view to ensuring the continuity of this valuable tradition, on the one hand, and protecting the living environment of this community and ensuring the transmission of its culture, on the other hand, considerable efforts are being made to prepare a nomination file for inclusion on the World Heritage List of ‘Aka Pygmies Forest and residential settlements’. The other documentation, promotion and educational efforts related to this element are described above. The Aka Pygmy communities, represented in the local committee for the management and revitalization of their oral traditions by their leaders or tradition bearers/custodians, who regularly participate in the activities of the Reference Centre dedicated to this purpose, have been mobilized and have participated in the preparation of this report.